Tea Party starts to circle Export-Import Bank

Tea Party starts to circle Export-Import Bank

Tea Party groups are increasing pressure on House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerIt's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him How Republicans can bring order out of the GOP's chaos Republican donor sues GOP for fraud over ObamaCare repeal failure MORE (R-Ohio) not to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, whose charter expires June 30 unless Congress acts.

"It would be very disheartening to our members if the largest Republican majority since 1929 was unable to end an outdated New Deal program," Freedom Partners President Marc Short wrote in a Tuesday letter to Boehner.

Freedom Partners and other Tea Party groups like Heritage Action have made the bank's reauthorization — once a largely nonpartisan issue — into a decisive political wedge issue for Republicans.

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Tea Partyers and prominent Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) argue that the bank is a form of corporate welfare for big businesses.

Business community support, however, has emboldened other Republicans, such as Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and most Democrats in rallying behind support to reauthorize the bank. They say it helps sustain U.S. jobs while financing American businesses overseas that are looking to make inroads in emerging markets.

They argue that if the bank didn't exist, the private sector wouldn't be able to finance these business deals and that the U.S. would lose the competition to foreign competitors like China.

Hensarling's panel has jurisdiction about whether to move a reauthorization bill through his committee. He hasn't said whether he will move a bill, but he said last month that the majority of Republicans on his committee oppose the bank's reauthorization.

Boehner has signaled he wants the bank reauthorized, telling reporters last month that “there are thousands of jobs on the line that would disappear pretty quickly” if Ex-Im is not renewed.

Short disputed Boehner's comments in his letter, writing that "existing Ex-Im financing arrangements and jobs will continue after the Bank’s charter ends."

"We are equally confident that future deals could be funded through private financing," Short wrote. "We also believe that current law already provides for an orderly wind down of the Bank’s previously approved obligations upon the expiration of its charter."

Export-Import Bank spokesman Matthew Bevens refuted that interpretation of the 2012 charter for the bank.

"The charter approved by broad bipartisan Congressional majorities in 2012 does not explicitly instruct the Secretary of the Treasury to ‘wind down the Bank,'" Bevens told The Hill.

The 2012 reauthorization bill states that "the Secretary of the Treasury shall initiate and pursue negotiations with other major exporting countries... to substantially reduce, with the ultimate goal of eliminating, subsidized export financing programs and other forms of export subsidies."

But the bank's critics have interpreted that language to mean that administration officials should begin conversations for the U.S. and the international community to end the Export-Import Bank and other entities like it worldwide.

House Republicans have criticized administration officials in recent hearings this Congress for not following through on that reform. And the issue has become a central sticking-point in whether another bill is needed to wind down the bank.

“It sounds like the Speaker is working off industry talking points instead of facts and as a result he is dragging the Republican Party closer to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and K Street," Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said. "There is also no evidence export subsidies actually create jobs.”